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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN: Battle for Syrian Enclave of E. Ghouta Marked by War Crimes

By Lisa Schlein June 26, 2018

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria accuses all warring factions in that country of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the battle for control of eastern Ghouta, a besieged enclave in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

In their latest report presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, U.N. investigators call the method of warfare employed in eastern Ghouta barbaric and medieval, marked by the most brutal forms of violence, with civilians as the primary victims.

The chair of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, says no one in this war has clean hands. Between February and April, he says, pro-government forces launched daily aerial and ground bombardments, killing hundreds of people and destroying the essentials of civilian life.

"The battle to recapture eastern Ghouta, however, cannot be characterized by the actions of a single party, as it was marked by pervasive war crimes committed by all sides, committed by all sides."

Pinheiro says members of armed groups and terrorist organizations have carried out indiscriminate reprisal attacks on Damascus regularly, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians.

Pinheiro condemned the systematic and strategic use of Syrian military forces to encircle and starve the civilian population to compel surrender, actions that amount to war crimes against humanity.

The report submitted to the Human Rights Council omits the mention of six chemical weapons attacks allegedly carried out by Syrian forces in eastern Ghouta between January and April. An attack on April 7, which reportedly killed 49 people, including 11 children, created an international outcry. The United States, Britain and France retaliated with missile strikes.

In their defense, the U.N. investigators say they decided not to include these events in the current report because a probe by a U.N. commission is ongoing. The investigators say they are likely to include information on chemical attacks in their next report in September.

Syria's ambassador, Hussam Edin Aala, speaking as a concerned country at the council, lambasted the commission's report as a fabrication. He said it was based on lies and accusations made by non-governmental organizations affiliated with armed terrorists.

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